Over the course of The Pickup Diaries, I plan to take the occasional "20-second timeout." During these timeouts, I'll set aside my linear narrative to discuss current events and observations.

This is one of those timeouts.

On Saturday, I went on an epic five-hour bike ride all over the Chicago suburbs. Near the end of my ride, I decided to stop by my gym, Lifetime Fitness, to take a dip in the outdoor pool. On my way through the gym, I noticed the basketball court was nearly empty. I figured it was the perfect time to practice my shooting.

Lifetime's court has four baskets. One basket was occupied by a group of small children. The opposite basket was being used by a father and (I presume) his two sons. At the third basket, two friends were shooting around and/or playing one-on-one (or some strange hybrid of the two). The fourth basket was empty.

Choosing a basket

There are subtle rules for choosing a basket to shoot at. Keep i mind that these rules assume there isn't currently a full court game going on.

If there are multiple baskets but one basket is empty, you obviously use that basket. If there are multiple baskets and all of them are in use, you go to the basket with the fewest people unless there is an active game going on (such as one-on-one, H-O-R-S-E, and so on).

Now, assume you go to the basket with the fewest people. Let's say there are four people at that basket (making you the fifth) and all other baskets have at least five people. Further assume that, while you are shooting, three people leave a nearby basket, reducing the number of current shooters to two. As the last person to start using your current basket, you are morally obliged to move to the basket with only two people, thus decreasing the number of people at your current basket and creating a more even distribution of shooters at all the baskets.

Mind you, these rules are never discussed. They are intuitive but nonetheless expected. And you never want to be the asshole who's creating an imbalance of shooters at a particular basket. Everybody hates that asshole. Just so you know.

My routine

When I shoot around, I do my own version of Around the World. I start on the right baseline about three-to-five feet from the basket and work my way around the basket in an arc until I reach the left baseline. Then I take two steps back and work my way back to the right baseline. I continue this process until I pass the three-point line, and then I work my way back in. If I get through that circuit, I do sets of 10 free throws until I go 10-for-10. That usually takes me about three to four sets.

If I can get through all of that, then I start working on specific moves or weaknesses in my game (like finishing at the rim with my left hand, for instance). Also, during these practices, I only ever dribble leftie. It sounds simple, but little things like that can really help improve your handles with your off hand.

Approaching a basket

Anyway, I was three rounds into my Around the World routine when a scrawny high schooler entered my zone. Just as there are unwritten rules for choosing a basket, there are also unwritten rules for approaching a basket already in use.

If the basket is in use by multiple players who do not know each other, you can walk right up and begin shooting. If the basket is in use by multiple players who do know each other, you must assess whether they are about to start a game or are currently between games. Never start shooting at a basket where friends are playing a game or are about to play. To determine what's going on, you can aask outright, or you can dribble around the area until it becomes obvious.

If the basket is in use by only one other player, you can either walk up and start shooting or ask the basket's "owner" if he or she minds whether you shoot around. Of course, this player doesn't really own the basket, but good manners are free.

In this case, the high schooler opted for the "walk up and start shooting" method. However, even this approach can vary. Some people walk right into your general area and start chucking up shots. Others dribble around the perimeter for a minute or two in an effort to figure out what you're doing. At a big gym like Lifetime Fitness, there are some people who don't really play basketball but still end up on the court. These people are usually just messing around, wasting time or loosening up before or after a workout. These people are afforded the least respect.

Then there are people who play ball but are just idly shooting around with no real purpose. These people are afforded a medium level or respect.

Finally, there are players (like me) who are practicing with purpose. They are exerting effort and seem to have a specific routine of shots and/or drills they are going through. Generally speaking, these people are afforded the most respect. When joining a basket where this kind of player is shooting, most people will do their best to stay out of his or her way.

The high schooler was pretty respectful. He spent a few minutes either practicing or pretending to practice his ball handling skills while determining what my shooting process was. When he started shooting a couple minutes later, he made sure to move automatically to the areas I had just vacated or was moving away from. We adopted the all-important "boom...boom" rhythm, where one player doesn't shoot until one or two hearbeats after the other player has launched his shot. This way, neither person has to rush shots to avoid in-air basketball collisions.

The challenge

The high schooler and I had been shooting around for 10 minutes or so when the two friends -- who had been doing their hybrid one-on-one/shootaround thing -- asked if we wanted to play two-on-two.

When friends ask to play against other non-friend players, they almost always want to play on the same team. However, etiquette dictates that you offer the non-friends the option to play together or mix things up (usually by shooting free throws to determine the teams). Unless it will create a large imbalance in talent, etiquette also dictates that the non-friends will let the friends play together. So I said it was fine, that I would play with the high schooler (even though his shooting had been erratic at best).

The two friends appeared to be in pretty good shape. One was about 5'9" and probably in his mid to late-30s. The other was over six feet tall and might have been in his early 40s. Both were sturdily built. For the purposes of this story, we'll call them Short and Tall.

Tall suggested we shoot for first possession. We all agreed, and since Short was holding the game ball, he took the shot and missed. So the high schooler and I started the game. I inbounded to him on the wing, set a pick for him and then made a quick roll to the basket. He hit me with a nice pass and I scored an easy layup. Tall wanted to play "make it, take it," so we got the ball back. The high schooler inbounded to me as I was flashing across the lane. I caught the pass and turn in for a hook shot. On the next play, I inbounded to the high schooler who easily beat his man off the dribble for a layup.

I'm sure you can see how this game was going.

We beat them pretty easily. I should mention at this point that, when the game started, I sensed that Tall believed he and Short were going to beat us. You can usually tell from body language and the way someone talks what that person thinks about his or her skills. When Tall had asked whether we wanted to switch things up, it felt like he was suggesting that letting him and his friend play together might be unfair to me and the high schooler.

As it turned out, the pairings were unfair. Just not in Tall's favor.

The excuses

Still, that didn't really hurt Tall's confidence. After we pounded them 11-1 in Game 1, he said, "Boy, you guys sure hit a high percentage in that game. Not much you can do when the other team's so hot, you know?" I just smiled and nodded. I understood he was trying to save face.

Game 2 was more of the same, although Tall and Short went on a 4-0 run to make it 6-4 before me and the high schooler closed things out with a 5-0 run.

After that beating, Tall said, "I think the key is keeping the ball away from you guys. We've gotta stop you on defense and then keep scoring on offense."

Gee, thanks, Captain Obvious.

Reading between the lines, what Tall was really saying (in part) was that he and his teammate had to get serious on defense. After the first game, Tall had dismissed out win as "hot shooting." When that continued in Game 2, he suddenly realized that, hey, his opponents were actual basketball players with actual basketball skills.

Now they were going to D us up.

But here's the thing: Part of the problem was that Tall and Short didn't match up with us very well. Specifically, the high schooler was much faster thans Short and I was faster and a little bigger than tall. On every possession, one of us would drive, draw the double team, and kick to the other one. Whoever received the pass would either shoot or drive-and-kick again.

Basically, we got an open shot on every possession.

In cases like this, the only thing the opposing team can do is start fouling. Short, to his credit, played clean. Tall? Not so much. He started bumping, grabbing, holding, and reaching. When none of that work, he would hack. At one point, I posted him up and absorbed four consecutive hacks before turning to shoot and getting whacked on the arm.

"I'm going to go ahead and call that," I said, "but that was, what, the fourth one?"

Tall laughed. "Sixth, I think." And then he smiled a friendly smile. See, that's what a lot of hackers will do. They play it really nice so, if you get mad, then you'll be the jerk. Man, I hate that little ploy.

Their newfound commitment to "defense" didn't change anything. The high schooler and I busted them again, this time 11-3. After the game, high schooler and Short went to get a drink. As I was shooting around, Tall said, "You know, usually I play every week, but I haven't played for the last three. I'm a little out of shape. Funny how fast you lose your wind, know what I mean?"

Ah, excuse number three: The "I was too tired" excuse. I love excuses.

For whatever reason, Tall wanted one more shot at us. He took his hacking to the next level, but the result was another 11-4 beating. During the game, he was jawing at his friend/teammate to play harder and shoot better. After the game, he walked off the court and then flopped down in disgust. He couldn't understand how he and his buddy had just been defeated so completely in four straight games. They hadn't even been able to compete.

The thing was, I could tell that Tall had been good once. Maybe even very good. But he had lost a step. Maybe even two or three steps. It happens. Age happens. Which reminds me of a phenomenon I've been observing over the last decade or so...

The Post-Alpha Dog Sydrome

The progression and regression of a typical pickup player's abilities can be represented by the following simple bell curve:

Age bell chart

At some point, no matter how good a player is, he starts the slow but inevitable regression from "good player" to "bad player." There's no shame in this. It's simply the cycle of life. But not everybody is ready to accept that. Not at first, anyway. Which leads to the Post-Alpha Dog Syndrome (PADS).

PADS affects players who were once really good -- you could rightly call them the "franchise players" of a pickup league -- but have recently begun the slippery slide down the second half of the curve.

They're still good players, but they no longer control games the way they used to. They can't take over anymore. They can be stopped cold by the better defensive players. They can't quite keep up with the better young players who can run faster and jump higher.

Many times, this regression is hard for the aging pickup baller to take. At this point, PADS sets in and the pickup player goes through the five stages of grief for their dying career:

Stage 1. Denial: During the denial stage, the PADS player simply denies anything has changed. He continues playing the same way he has always played. Only...it's not working. It's clearly not working. And once he realizes it's not working, that leads to...

Stage 2. Anger: Once anger kicks in, the PADS player tries to compensate for his declining skills by becoming a dick. On the offensive end, he begins calling cheap fouls that are often punctuated by verbal flops and/or cursing. On the defensive end, he starts calling constant violations like charging, palming or traveling...regardless of whether he was involved in the play (such as a charge) or had the right angle to see the play (such as with a travel). And even on those rare occasions in which he doesn't call a foul or violation, he will complain loudly enough for everybody to hear (e.g., "Goddamn, that guy travels on every play!").

The anger stage is also where many players start to develop Bruce Bowen-style tricks. Stepping on a player's foot. Undercutting people on "accident." Setting moving picks that involve more elbow than anything else. So on and so forth.

At first, this anger catches people off guard, especially if this player has a long history at a given pickup league and is generally well-respected. However, pickup ballers will only accept anger for so long. Then they start to turn up the social preessure until the PADS player's rage turns to...

Stage 3. Bargaining: When the other players have had enough of his bitching, the PADS player starts to openly plead for help. He may request to be on the better team "for once." If you're defending him, he may ask you to "take it easy on him." He will talk to anyone who will listen about his age, his conditioning, his weight, his old ankle injury...anything that might earn him some sympathy and therefore soften up his opponents. And it might even work. For a little while. But eventually, people will wise up to his little game and stop enabling him. This leads to...

Stage 4. Depression: The PADS player no longer enjoys playing basketball. Every game is a bittersweet event for him. Every possession seems joyless. Between games, he will talk to other players about "being done" or how he doesn't know how much longer he's going to play with "all you young guys." He might even use the word "retirement" half-jokingly, half-seriously. Some people will try to make the PADS player feel better -- "C'mon, you're still really good" or "Hey, I hope I can still play as well as you when I'm your age" -- but those efforts are in vain.

The real enemy...is inside.

State 5. Acceptance: Some PADS players will quit before they ever reach this stage. But many won't be able to give up. When you've been playing pickup ball for 30, maybe 40 years, quitting would be like divorcing your wife or maybe giving up masturbation. The PADS player is too old to be the player he once was, but he's also too old to change.

And so he comes to grips with the skills he's lost. He tries to contribute as best he can, never doing anything that's beyond his current abilities. Winning becomes less importand and losing less crippling. He starts to call fewer fouls and becomes friendlier to new people who join the league. He vows openly to "play until I can't play anymore." The battle is no longer against his opponents on the court...it's against time itself.

And that's when PADS ends.

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61 Comments:
Blogger Sid said...
Wonder what the etiquette dictates on taking 3's in a half court pickup match. Some guys consider it a cheap when I take too many 3's. They make you feel like you are bringing a gun to a knife fight.

Once after losing in a 2 on 2 to a tall dude who posts up like Duncan, the next match I got hot from the outside, and he slacked off his defense at the perimeter. Normally he's a great sport, but the 3's put him off. That win seemed somewhat hollow.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Darn, after that huge setup, I thought this would be a story of someone who stayed at "your basket" uncomfortably while there were other open baskets or baskets with less people.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Darn, after that huge setup, I thought this would be a story of someone who stayed at "your basket" uncomfortably while there were other open baskets or baskets with less people.

Sorry. But that does happen. I'm usually filled with unreasonable rage for those people.

Anonymous Cubee said...
@Sid : since I shot a lot myself from the outside at pickup games, and I got that a lot. People getting tired of me making outside shots. But the rules are the rules. If they want to play BBall, they better accept the rules or go play some other sport. Everyone has got weak and strong points. To ask an opponent to not use his strong point, is plain weak. Sure they can bitch about it, but you have to ignore that.

Blogger Sorbo said...
@Sid - Yeah, I never understood guys getting upset about taking 3s in halfcourt games, although the general rule was that half-court games should only be scored by 1s anyway. Even by that scoring, I'd still take a few 20-footer if I was wide open. Why practice something if you never use it in a game?

Even when I get hit those shots, some guy would say something to the effect of "your too scared to come inside on me." My reply was, "Why would do I need to go in there for, your giving me wide-open looks."

@Basketbawful - What a solid, if somewhat depressing, article about aging. BTW, It sounds like you were skepitical of the high school, which I totally understand. You never know what you're going to get out of a high schooler until the game starts. It's either the ultra-timid kid who defers to older players (where you have to coach them into playing); it's the shot-happy kid who doesn't set screens or rebounds (early stages of a bad pick-up player); or it's a kid who hasn't learned that pick-up games can be more physical (meaning less fouls called) then typical gym class basketball. Sounds like you got a decent one.

Anonymous TheOdenator said...
I played on some open air courts this weekend which tends to attract the prima donnas (which are just PADS who were only ever ADs in their imagination) and had a guy call a travel on me after I stole the ball at the top of the key from him, and put up a no-chase lay up.

If you're not willing to chase me, just be glad I didn't try and put up 2 on you right? Now I understand that would be the ultimate of all dick moves, but is calling a travel on such a play any less dickish? So it got me thinking bawful, what is the ultimate dick call in pick-up?

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Sid -- You certainly weren't violating any ettiquette that I know of. But people often complain when they're getting beaten...and they tend to work how you beat then into the complaint.

You're just hot. You hit too many threes. You're too tall. You're too fast. Whatever. It's just a way to justify losing.

Pickup ballers are more likely to impove if they silently break down why they lost and then try to make counteradjustments.

Blogger Lord Kerrance said...
@Sid -- I'm 6'4", so I'm usually one of the tallest if not the tallest guy there. I used to feel bad posting up and scoring easy baskets on guys who were way smaller than me in pickup games. That all stopped when I realized they weren't going to run any slower against me on the other end.

Point being, you use any physical or talent advantage you can. That's the game.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
BTW, It sounds like you were skepitical of the high school, which I totally understand. You never know what you're going to get out of a high schooler until the game starts. It's either the ultra-timid kid who defers to older players (where you have to coach them into playing); it's the shot-happy kid who doesn't set screens or rebounds (early stages of a bad pick-up player); or it's a kid who hasn't learned that pick-up games can be more physical (meaning less fouls called) then typical gym class basketball. Sounds like you got a decent one.

You're absolutely right to notice that...and you're also bang on in your analysis of the typical high schooler. I could probably pick nits, but all things told, this kid was smart enough to know when he had an advantage, he was a willing passer and he crashed the offensive boards. Turned out to be a really good teammate. I was surprised.

Blogger clicc916 said...
Bawful, you forgot to mention another thing that happens when all courts are taken for (assuming full-court games are going on).

A member from the team-next-up, or an occasional loner will take a few shots while the teams on the other side of the court. Usually, this is okay, but things can get dicey when a fast break occurs.

Blogger Sid said...
Thanks to all for assuaging. That win seems a lot less hollow now.

Blogger Dylan Murphy said...
I've found that playing with randoms is usually better because most people do not want to be assholes and to be selfish. And more passing = better basketball. When I play with my friends, I have no problem with being selfish because it's not awkward if I am.

Blogger chris said...
PADS, that sounds like what Kevin Garnett has experienced since 2008, right? ;)

Are there certain types of players less prone to suffering that...as in, they can make up for their decline in skills with experience over time, the older they get?

Blogger Sorbo said...
That's what 30-and-over leagues are for: the PADS player. The sad thing is that I'm trying to join one of these leagues in the fall, which means I need to prepare to watch 10 guys cherry pick for an entire regulation game.

Blogger Dooj said...
@clicc916

I hate it when that happens. I understand they wanna warm up but get out of the way when we start running...

Another irritating thing about pickup games is the younger players on the other baskets that don't run to get their balls before they roll onto our court. I understand it when if you can't get to it, but when the balls keep coming (no pun intended) it gets really irritating.

@bawful

The biggest question is: How do you prevent that aging process? I'm somewhere in the denial phase. I broke my foot playing pickup and didn't play for 6 months. I'm worried I'm stuck in the depressed phase for years...

I never thought of applying the Kubler-Ross model to Aging Athlete Syndrome, though I suspect more than a few sufferers were never that good to begin with and are merely engaging in ego protection.

chris - Yes, there are those that can use guile to compensate from declining physical skills, but they're still going to be exposed by the better athletes, especially if the games go full court. Basketball is a game of bursts, and once your burst is gone, that's not much you can do to make up for its absence.

Sid - Speaking as someone who's barely tall enough to ride the bumper cars, what would be the point of playing hoop without perimeter shooting? Driving to the hole every time is a excellent way to lose a few teeth in many pick-up games. Someone who thinks 3's are "cheap" are just too lazy to actually move their feet to defend a good shooter.

Blogger Drake said...
Perhaps my most memorable encounter with dick players was during a full-court game that I played several years ago. I'm pretty sure the other team's players were pretty good - at least three of them were young black kids in the 6-foot range with long limbs, quick hands, good hops and quickness, solid-enough basketball skills. Of course, my team was considerably more motley-crue...on the surface.

In other words, they expected to beat us handily, possibly even destroy us.

Inevitably, this mindset breeds laziness when it comes to getting back on D. So as the team's outlet passer, I saw this laziness in action and threw the ball down the court a la Wes Unseld to fuel several easy fast breaks.

So we were leading the game pretty comfortably, and the other team was in WTF-mode and trying to figure out "what was wrong". So, of course, came the bullshit calls. Soon after, I caught the ball on the break and went for a two step layup (with no dribble), and they called a travel. Total BS.

But perhaps the most memorable part of the game happened during yet another uncontested fast-break (see a pattern here?). My teammate was going up for an easy layup when his defender came charging up behind him and attempted to block the layup or foul him. My teammate lays the ball in, but may have inadvertently elbowed the flying defender. Because afterwards, the defender was sobbing and holding his head, hoping to get some sympathy for his injury or maybe even a rescinded basket.

At that point, a spectator on the sidelines had seen enough. He called BS on the defender, telling the defender that he was clearly at fault since he was recklessly trying to foul the player from behind on a breakaway layup.

In the end, I think we may have lost the game as the BS calls accumulated (I actually don't remember). The spectator lectured us on not letting the other team push us around with all those bullshit calls - basically, argue for what you know is right.

So I guess I learned a valuable lesson that day.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
The biggest question is: How do you prevent that aging process? I'm somewhere in the denial phase. I broke my foot playing pickup and didn't play for 6 months. I'm worried I'm stuck in the depressed phase for years...

As someone who has recently realized some of my native athletic skills have begun to decline, the only thing I can suggest is to work on honing the facets of your game that don't rely on the physical gifts you're losing. Focus on fundamentals.

Seriously, smart footwork, hustle, blocking out, solid defense...these are skills you can maintain until a ripe old age and require "only" determination and conditioning. In other words, they're ageless. And younger, more athletic players (in many cases) have not learned to appreciate them. I'm speaking as someone who has been fending off wave after wave of younger players for many years now (their number is limitless).

You could also develop two or three moves to the point of perfection. We have an older guy in our pickup league, Larry, who's in his mid-60s. He has two scoring "moves": A spot-up jumper from 15 feet, either straight on or from the baseline, and a reverse layup/scoop thing.

Larry reached the point that he hit a ridiculously high percentage of his open 15-footers, and his reverse layup/scoop was nearly unstoppable (thanks to footwork and timing). He has remained effective for many years beyond his prime thanks to those two moves/shots.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
chris - I was thinking more of Allen Iverson than Kevin Garnett, but KG probably works as well.

All this talk about underestimating what your unknown partner might bring to the table in pickup ball makes me want to go watch White Men Can't Jump again.

Blogger Sorbo said...
@Wild Yams - The editing department of that movie deserve an Oscar for making Wesley Snipes and Woody appear to have something even close to a game.

@Bawful - What's the rule on children and public courts? I mean wildly undersized, ridiculously young kids. Should they even be allowed on a public court? Should their parents usher them off as soon as grown-up step in? Should I just walk away and find another park? Can I take their lunch money if they whine?

I've ran into a few situations where some ankle-biters (12 years or younger) were playing on the only court where I could shoot. Having kids around, even when you're just casually warming-up/shooting, is like playing football on a thrashed field with hundres of divets. You're constantly looking down, you don't want to jump, and you don't really run as much as you shuffle around the court.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Damn man, you sure have a lot of rules that other people don't know. Maybe if you just played ball instead of worrying about a bunch of unspoken rules, you wouldn't be so angry.

And if you're beating the other team 11-4 every game, then start hustling them. Play with your left hand or throw in some tricks or wait for them so they can catch up on D so you can break them again. At least let them get close so the games are somewhat competitive. Or would you rather make everyone else have a shitty time so you can win?

Have fun with it. You don't get anything for winning anyway...

Blogger Japes said...
I must say I'm pretty much at stage 5. I'm only 32 but both of my knees are ravaged. Basically been playing with a torn PCL since I was 18. Now I limp like Andrew Bynum running up and down the court. The only thing I have left is the post because no young guy can guard a 200lb old guy who actually has decent footwork in the post. I agree with your picking basket rules, most ballers generally know about them but others are either just ignorant or jerks.

Anonymous TheOdenator said...
@Drake I hate that stuff, so much. I mean it comes from the PADS, the primma donna's, and the athleticism stuff (aka as football players). If you're beating a team that thinks they are better, instead of working harder, I hate when they just go the lazy way out.

Which as bawful had highlighted; laziness is what gets you beat in the first place. Hate to see that stuff rewarded.

Blogger Apocalypse34 said...
There is this one team in my pickup league that has a roster that is made up of all 5 stages. The best guy on the team hasn't yet begun to decline but I suspect he will in a couple of years.

The second best, however, is knee deep in the anger stage. He's still a decent player to have on your team as he's still a dead eye shooter at NBA range. He just never developed his left hand at all and it's catching up to him now. He often times yells at the refs for fouls when he can't drive past us anymore or can't box out his man. He's probably in his mid 40s.

But the amazing thing is they have like 3 or 4 guys in their 50s, and one other guy who is either in his late 60s or early 70s...and still plays a large chunk of minutes per game. Those guys are all in the acceptance stage. Which means as a team they commit very few turnovers, they're okay with setting picks for the younger guys, and shoot a fairly high percentage. They're never very good obviously because age has caught over half the roster and it hurts their defense but they're the kind of guys you'd love to have on your team...just a little too old to stay in front of anyone.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
@Bawful - What's the rule on children and public courts? I mean wildly undersized, ridiculously young kids. Should they even be allowed on a public court? Should their parents usher them off as soon as grown-up step in? Should I just walk away and find another park? Can I take their lunch money if they whine?

Personally? I hate these kids and I hate their parents for letting them get in my way. But the reality is, these are public courts and anybody has the right to play there. Damn it all.

But you're right, these kids are dangerous. If you go in for a layup or to retrieve a shot, you're likely to take one of their air balls right in the chops.

Blogger nohandle said...
Anonymous - if you're beating the other team 11-4 every game, then start hustling them. Play with your left hand or throw in some tricks or wait for them so they can catch up on D so you can break them again. At least let them get close so the games are somewhat competitive. Or would you rather make everyone else have a shitty time so you can win?

Have fun with it. You don't get anything for winning anyway...


Spoken like a true loser. In the words of Herm Edwards: "You play to win the game!" You may not "get anything for winning" but you know what? Winning's still a lot of fun. more so than losing. Personally, I don't see the point in goofing off just so the losing team can feel good about themselves.

If they're getting beat by that much it's time to get better, "retire" or at least switch the teams up for the rest of the afternoon.

captcha: "stathr" - 'Sheed could have pulled down that board with a little bit of extra hustle, but he decided he would rather just stathr instead.

Blogger Dooj said...
@anonymous

They aren't really rules so much as everyone knows what's going on. No one comes in and sets down who can shoot where, but the way things work on a public court is just like Bawful described.

@anonymous - If you play pic-up regularly, or just shoot around much, you know these rules. You may not articulate as well as Bawful, but you can feel it when a violation is committed, either by or against you.

The 11-4 beatings are mostly because these guys thought they were going to be the ones administering the beatdown. And playing left-handed or "letting them back in the game" are far greater losses of face than just losing.

Blogger Drake said...
@TheOdenator

Sadly, the rule of the pickup court seems to be whoever woofs the loudest wins the argument. No matter how wrong he is. And this goes for both good players during a nice heated game as well as complete lazy-ass players whose mouths are bigger than their games will ever be.

Sometimes, it makes me wish we have referees pickup games, no matter how bad they will inevitably be - at least we wouldn't be arguing about one fucking call for 5 minutes.


@Sorbo:

About a month ago, I was waiting on the sidelines of a half-court game when a ball comes on the court over from a kids' game the next court over. One of the kids (probably 11-12 years old) comes over, picks up the ball, and shoots the ball at our basket while play was still going on. (!!!!!!)

We were rightfully fucking pissed off, and told the kid, "What the hell?" His response: "Yo, chill out!" :facepalm: Seriously, what the hell happened to the past generation of kids? Where did they learn to become douchebags at such a young age?

I hate to sound like an old man, but here goes: in the old days, you used to get your ass whooped if you ever pulled a stunt like that. And your parents would thank the guys who whooped your ass for "teaching our son a lesson in humility". And then your parents would repeat that lesson to you once again just to let it sink in.

Okay...it probably didn't go down like that. But I'd like to think the world was once like that.

Blogger Sorbo said...
@anonymous. I don't think it's just about winning. To paraphrase Hoosiers: "If you play with maximum effort and at the top of your abilities, I don't care at the end of the day what the scoreboard says. In my book your winners."

I think Bawful was just picking on the guy for making excuses for losing. Like all things pick-up-game related, "common sense" rules the day. And if a guy loses, he should show some sense, man up, and admit to it. Excuses just imply that he's ashamed of his game or of his effort, and no one should feel ashamed if they really gave it their all.

Anonymous JoeH said...
Please tell me you told high schooler that he was a good teammate. I remember being that age--advice, constructive criticism, and encouragement from older players, especially ones who knew how to play, were very welcome.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Please tell me you told high schooler that he was a good teammate. I remember being that age--advice, constructive criticism, and encouragement from older players, especially ones who knew how to play, were very welcome.

I did indeed.

Blogger chris said...
Man, reading all this makes me realize that life without athletic ability isn't all that fun. :P

My only experiences with team sports: clueless soccer in the 1st grade or so, and a roller hockey squad when I was 15 (which went a lot more successful than the former).

Blogger MCBias said...
Basketbawful, I too was surprised that HS guy turned out to be such a good teammate. It would be interesting to hear some stories on which players were the most different from warm-up to the game itself, for good or bad.

I think the tough one for me is older players who don't show their full range of skills during warm-ups but then suddenly break out all sorts of moves during the game itself. By the time I realized who I was playing against, they had 2-3 points...and if you're only playing to 11, that can be it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"If you play pic-up regularly, or just shoot around much, you know these rules. You may not articulate as well as Bawful, but you can feel it when a violation is committed, either by or against you.

The 11-4 beatings are mostly because these guys thought they were going to be the ones administering the beatdown. And playing left-handed or "letting them back in the game" are far greater losses of face than just losing."

I know the rules. Not everyone else necessarily does though. Am I supposed to get mad and bitch and moan about people who don't know something they were never taught? Do you also beat up the new guy at work?

If I know I can win with my right hand, then why wouldn't I work on something I don't know as well? You can save face all you want, I'd rather spend my time developing my left hand and getting better.

"I hate to sound like an old man, but here goes: in the old days, you used to get your ass whooped if you ever pulled a stunt like that. And your parents would thank the guys who whooped your ass for "teaching our son a lesson in humility". And then your parents would repeat that lesson to you once again just to let it sink in."

Yeah child abuse is awesome. In fact, I punched my baby girl directly in the face for daring to cry when she was born. Let's see if she pulls that stunt again. Taught that bitch a lesson in humility, I like to say. Maybe I'll do it again soon to make sure the lesson sinks in.

@nohandle - yeah you sound like a lot of fun to hang out with.

Anonymous Bateman's Legal Counsel said...
I shoot hoops at my city's rec center. The courts are awesome, but here's the problem: because it's a "family-oriented" rec center instead of a "gym," there's way too many kids running around with no agenda.

The parents want (a) to work out or (b) their kids out of the house. In the case of (a), they check out a basketball and tell the kids to mess around on the court til they're done working out. In the case of (b), they just drop the kids off up front and tell them what time to be picked up.

Either way, the result is the same: many, many unsupervised and agenda-less kids taking up precious court space.

The solution is simple, but can be hard to execute: the 6 AM shootaround. It's the only way to get guaranteed time to practice.

Blogger Sorbo said...
@Drake - Yeah, kids suck. I like to think that I wasn't like that I was 10 or 12, but I imagine I had a couple of dickish habits or punk friends. Maybe we only notice the a-hole kids because a-hole behavior is easier to spot than respectful behavior. Who knows?

Blogger me said...
Drake said...
"Perhaps my most memorable encounter with dick players was during a full-court game that I played several years ago. I'm pretty sure the other team's players were pretty good - at least three of them were young black kids in the 6-foot range with long limbs, quick hands, good hops and quickness, solid-enough basketball skills. Of course, my team was considerably more motley-crue...on the surface."

wow nice racism there dude. If anyone didn't read it, the post continues with the story of how this Drake guy and his team took advantage of the natural laziness, disorganization, and low intelligence of the negroes to conquer them in spite of their primitive physical gifts and animalistic behavior.

Blogger BadDave said...
I long for the release death will bring.

Blogger Dan B. said...
wow nice racism there dude. If anyone didn't read it, the post continues with the story of how this Drake guy and his team took advantage of the natural laziness, disorganization, and low intelligence of the negroes to conquer them in spite of their primitive physical gifts and animalistic behavior.

Seriously? Either you are an idiot or the worst kind of troll. Not every time someone mentions the word "black" means he's a goddamn KKK member. Get over yourself.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
@Dan B.- SShhhh!! Dude! If we're all really quiet, maybe he'll just go away...

@BadDave- OK so a basic google search of your comment only revealed some corny blog comic, which I assume you weren't referencing. And where google fails me, I'm pretty much screwed. So why do you want to die, budday? Can I offer you a hug or perhaps a diet root beer to make you feel better?

Blogger Dooj said...
@anonymous

I'm assuming you're here to get a rise out of people, but I'll still take the bait since I'm having a good day and an internet forum won't get my panties in a bunch.

"I know the rules. Not everyone else necessarily does though. Am I supposed to get mad and bitch and moan about people who don't know something they were never taught? Do you also beat up the new guy at work?"

Is there something wrong with wanting people to follow guidelines that every baller knows intuitively? To go with your analogy, it would be more like beating up the new guy cause he didn't turn on the fan after a severe dump. People know this stuff, whether they pretend to or not.

"Yeah child abuse is awesome. In fact, I punched my baby girl directly in the face for daring to cry when she was born. Let's see if she pulls that stunt again. Taught that bitch a lesson in humility, I like to say. Maybe I'll do it again soon to make sure the lesson sinks in."

Please... There is a strong difference between spanking for discipline and physical abuse. You can obviously tell the difference because you gave an extreme example of physical abuse.

Of course, I didn't come onto bawful's blog to have an argument about how to properly discipline your child. So Cheerio!

Blogger The Dude Abides said...
My best pickup basketball moment:

My community college tennis team traveled to Hawaii every year for one week to play two matches against the U of H (we were a good CC team), and then goof of on Oahu for the remaining several days. That left plenty of time for pickup basketball. One of my teammates was a loudmouth braggart (Napoleon complex, only 5-5, and I'm 5-10). I played a ton of league basketball from age nine to age 14, but concentrated on tennis after that, and was a terrible shooter while just standing around. But as soon as I got in a pickup game, I was a really good scorer because I had good footwork and pump fakes.

Anyway, when we were choosing sides, Napoleon loudly told his captain not to pick The Dude, he sucks. So I ended up with the other team, and we were playing buckets. Napoleon again loudly told everyone that he would guard me, because I suck. So the first four possessions, I got the ball, put a couple moves on Napoleon, and scored over him easily. Every single time I scored, the same Napoleon teammate (call him NT), repeated sarcastically that The Dude sucks. Finally, Napoleon's team got possession, and Napoleon "went to work" on me in isolation. I blocked his shot, NT said The Dude sucks, everyone laughed, and Napoleon stalked off the court. It was awesome.

Don't ask me about any negative pickup bball memories, because I blocked all of them out.

Captcha: forting (no comment, too obvious)

Blogger Drake said...
@Sorbo

I dunno. It probably is just that: the a-hole kids just stand out a lot more.

My problem isn't with kids, really. No, my problem is with kids who think they know better than their elders and act out on that impulse. Unless that behavior gets reined in early, it becomes progressively worse as the kids become adults. Kids aren't so bad because they're essentially powerless - it's when they become assholes as adults when we'll feel the true effects.


@me and @Dan B.

Thanks for the help, Dan, but I'll reply here.

It's not really racism really - I'm just telling you exactly who some of my opponents were. If you've ever played pickup basketball, you would know exactly who I'm talking about. Does this mean there aren't white, Asian, Arabic, etc. players who also fit the same profile? Not at all. In fact, I fit this profile myself. But if I were to describe that exact type of player without mentioning his skin color, you'd still assume he's black, right? I don't know why it plays out that more black players who fit this profile than players of other skin color, but it's just the way it is. (BTW, I mentioned that I modeled my outlet-passing after a black man - Wes Unseld. But you were too caught up in your "racial anger" to notice, right?)

If I had never mentioned that these players were black, would you have still protested? Probably, because you still would have assumed I was talking about black players of my choice of other words. Does that make you a racist for making that assumption? I don't know - all I know is that more black players happen to fit that profile from my experience.

Speaking of assumptions, where do you get off assuming anything about "natural lazyness, disorganization, and low intelligence"? It has nothing to do with "natural" anything - that team might have had good players, but they just weren't a a very good team overall. And it certainly didn't help matters that they felt the need to "play down to their opponents" at the beginning.

In addition, for whatever reason, my team that day was really clicking. When a team rolls like that, any opponent will have a hard time stopping it. Just recently, I played on a team that clicked just like that... and it featured a couple of black players who fit the same profile. So how about that?

Ultimately, the point remains that if you go out and play tough from the first minute onward, you're going to give yourself a chance to win. Just look at this year's US Men's Soccer Team - they gave up early goals because they didn't always play tough from the first whistle onwards. It's not a matter of black or white - it's a matter of whether you're willing to do whatever it takes to win from the start. And that's ultimately why there are so few players like MJ or Kobe - many have had the potential to be even better than those two, but they didn't have the desire to just flat-out obliterate their opponents every time.

I know the rules. Not everyone else necessarily does though. Am I supposed to get mad and bitch and moan about people who don't know something they were never taught? Do you also beat up the new guy at work?

Nobody was speaking of acting out publicly. I'm sure Bawful, like the rest of us socialized creatures, just swallows his rage, drinks to forget, and then dies from heart failure 30 years on as his revenge. And what does violence to your co-workers have to do with anything being discussed here?

If I know I can win with my right hand, then why wouldn't I work on something I don't know as well? You can save face all you want, I'd rather spend my time developing my left hand and getting better.

Beyond the pomposity of that statement about your deadly right hand, I wasn't talking about saving my face, I was talking about the dangers of being seen as clowning someone. But you're clearly an IBA, so I guess that's not a problem.

@ me - Who used negroes in his post? Case fucking closed.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
@anonymous I seem to remember that's why we practice. During a game is not the time to "work" on developing your skills. In fact, if I was losing, I'd feel disrespected if the winning team suddenly started shooting left handed shots for the hell of it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
“I think we’re in a great position. We’re in a position. We’re going to make some moves. I’ve sort of taken a sabbatical for a minute. I’ll be back for the NBA Draft. I’ll be in a situation where I can make some moves. We’ll trade up. We’ll trade up and get a great ballplayer. (Host: MJ, no disrespect to you, but the draft was last night.) Pardon me? The draft was last night? Let me show you how well I am connected to the city of Charlotte. I’ve been on the phone. I’ve been texting. I’m on Facebook now. I told Fred Whitfield and Rod Higgins to keep me posted when the draft was. This is my responsibility. I’m the owner of the team now. Are you saying that the NBA Draft last night?… If I get wind of the fact that this happened behind my back, this is not the first time this I’ve done this with this organization. Remember I told you, one day Sam Vincent was the head coach of this organization and the next day he is working at McDonalds. I’m connected to what’s going on. I know the pulse of what’s happening in that city. I will be back for the draft.”

I don't know what to say. Time for a change in basketbawful banner I guess.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Basketbawful, I too was surprised that HS guy turned out to be such a good teammate. It would be interesting to hear some stories on which players were the most different from warm-up to the game itself, for good or bad.

I will definitely get to that.

I think the tough one for me is older players who don't show their full range of skills during warm-ups but then suddenly break out all sorts of moves during the game itself. By the time I realized who I was playing against, they had 2-3 points...and if you're only playing to 11, that can be it.

Yeah...older players tend to lay like snakes in the grass. I know I do it, especially when new guys show up at my pickup league. Every little edge helps. Go to the SI Vault sometime and look up Bill Russell's classic article "How I Psyche Them." If it's good enough for Mr. Russell, it's good enough for me.

Blogger me said...
Drake said...
"It's not really racism really - I'm just telling you exactly who some of my opponents were. If you've ever played pickup basketball, you would know exactly who I'm talking about. Does this mean there aren't white, Asian, Arabic, etc. players who also fit the same profile? Not at all. In fact, I fit this profile myself. But if I were to describe that exact type of player without mentioning his skin color, you'd still assume he's black, right?"

Uhhhhhhh, no I wouldn't chief cause I'm not a racist.

Seriously, this doesn't even make sense: if meanies come in such a rainbow of colors, why bother to mention that you played against BLACK guys? Oh wait I know the reason, it's because you're a racist and were employing the stereotype of black players as physically talented but lazy and with low (bball) IQ.

"(BTW, I mentioned that I modeled my outlet-passing after a black man - Wes Unseld. But you were too caught up in your "racial anger" to notice, right?)"

Haha yeah that totally makes you not racist. I bet you even listen to rap! But not that scary mean stuff like Jay-Z, you like "intelligent" rap (made by white guys).

"In addition, for whatever reason, my team that day was really clicking. When a team rolls like that, any opponent will have a hard time stopping it. Just recently, I played on a team that clicked just like that... and it featured a couple of black players who fit the same profile. So how about that?"

See, you're not racist! You've totally got some black friends!

Hey, what do you think about kids who wear their pants really low? I'm interested in your opinion!

Blogger me said...
Dan B. said...

"wow nice racism there dude. If anyone didn't read it, the post continues with the story of how this Drake guy and his team took advantage of the natural laziness, disorganization, and low intelligence of the negroes to conquer them in spite of their primitive physical gifts and animalistic behavior.
Seriously? Either you are an idiot or the worst kind of troll. Not every time someone mentions the word "black" means he's a goddamn KKK member. Get over yourself."

Ahahaha, you should have waited to post this until after you read Drake's reply, because it's clear now that he is a racist and you look really stupid.

Hey are you one of those guys that gets really riled up by perceived "political correctness"?

Blogger Preveen said...
Lord Kerrance FTW!
Use whatever you have. If your skill is the 3, use it. If your skill is moving people out of the way with you gigantic ass and going to the rim, then use it! Thats me, btw :D I must watch more Charles Barkley. Them small quick guys don't show mercy when they try to break your ankles over on the perimeter.

Anonymous Geert said...
At least you Americans usually don't have to worry about your courts already being used by soccerplayers...

When I was in highschool and thus still lived with my parents there was a basketballcourt near their house. I think I was one of the few people who used it for basketball. A few years ago when I was with my parents for the weekend I saw that our city council, in all their wisdom, palced small (approximately 3 foot wide, 2,5 foot high) streetsoccergoals right under the baskets. Yes, a multipurpose sportcourt decision with big ankle injury risks. The obviously didn't know shit about the risks for basketballplayers. Or about basketball in general. Fortunately in my collegetown there is a big studentsbasketballscene.

Blogger Dan B. said...
me -- Actually, no. It appears you don't seem to understand what the fuck racism actually is. Does it make me a racist if I assume a white player is going to mostly shoot jumpers because, hey, it's true, that is what most white NBA, college, high school, and pickup ballers do? What if I say that and I'm white? What if I say that and I'm black? Does it make it any less of the usual truth? And does it mean that I think any less of that group, and that I treat them poorly? No. So in summary, shut the fuck up.

“I think we’re in a great position. We’re in a position. We’re going to make some moves. I’ve sort of taken a sabbatical for a minute. I’ll be back for the NBA Draft. I’ll be in a situation where I can make some moves. We’ll trade up. We’ll trade up and get a great ballplayer. (Host: MJ, no disrespect to you, but the draft was last night.) Pardon me? The draft was last night? Let me show you how well I am connected to the city of Charlotte. I’ve been on the phone. I’ve been texting. I’m on Facebook now. I told Fred Whitfield and Rod Higgins to keep me posted when the draft was. This is my responsibility. I’m the owner of the team now. Are you saying that the NBA Draft last night?… If I get wind of the fact that this happened behind my back, this is not the first time this I’ve done this with this organization. Remember I told you, one day Sam Vincent was the head coach of this organization and the next day he is working at McDonalds. I’m connected to what’s going on. I know the pulse of what’s happening in that city. I will be back for the draft.”

I don't know what to say. Time for a change in basketbawful banner I guess.

Ahah. Thanks. It made my day.

You can listen Drunk MJ speaking here :
http://wfnz.cbslocal.com/2010/06/25/primetime-hour-4-friday-6/

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Which one of the other mods keeps approving all these comments?

This sure is some interesting conversation you guys got going here.

Blogger Drake said...
@me

We're talking about pickup basketball here. So let's not go down the abstract debate route anymore, shall we?

Yes, most of the players on the other team happened to be black. But let's just call them just a random pickup team for our own sake, okay? So let's continue - yes, they thought they could beat us pretty easily.

It wasn't "natural laziness" that led to our opponent's deficit. No...I specifically stated that this was mostly a mindset issue. Complacency happens all the time in pickup ball when one team feels they're better than the other. Just look at anonymous here - he says he plays with his left hand when he feels he's better than the other team. Look at Basketbawful's opponents, Short and Tall - they played soft they thought they could beat their opponents easily. Complacency in pickup ball isn't just an isolated incident.

But once race and skin color enters the conversation, everything goes to shit. See, your end of the conversation was never about about basketball at all. Instead, you've decided to get onto your high horse and call everybody who even mentions the word "black" to be a racist. I tried to appease you with some common sense and experience - clearly, that was a mistake. It's obvious we can no longer talk in such terms anymore.

If we're here to talk about basketball, then fine. But if you're going to keep going on with your high-horse bullshit, then I have nothing more to say to you.

Blogger Sorbo said...
Forgot the link: http://lebron-james-watch.si.com/2010/06/29/dolan-to-join-knicks-meeting-with-lebron/

Blogger Sorbo said...
Is it me, or does this photo scream "Knicks Owner"

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Drake, and me, and anybody else following this debate on the alleged racism in Drake's original comment -- Let me open my response with a quote from Dennis Rodman's autobiography Bad As I Wanna Be:

"When you talk about race in basketball, the whole thing is simple: a black player knows he can go out on the court and kick a white player's ass. He can beat him and he knows it. It's that simple, and it shouldn't surprise anyone. The black player feels it every time. He knows it from the inside."

I really don't want to get into race issues beyond pickup basketball. It's not my area of expertise. But I can tell you this: In a great many cases, Rodman's comments ring true. Black pickup players have a tendency to believe they are better than most white players. What's more, many (perhaps even most) white players make the very same assumption.

That assumption can (and very often does) lead to the mindset Drake was talking about. When a player, or an entire team assumes they are better than their opponents, they also tend to assume victory.

Of course, this mindset is not limited to black players. Far from it. I used to go one-on-one with this guy I called "Fat Shaq" who was white and absolutely convinced he was better than me...even though he could not and never once beat me. He would constantly change the rules of the game to benefit him (he thought) but still couldn't win. But he carried himself with the swagger of someone who beat me every time, not the other way around.

That said, there is a general stereotype in our society that black players are better than white players. This mindset does indeed have an effect on pickup players and pickup games everywhere. I'm not sure what kind of language is necessary to discuss it, but pretending that this isn't the case seems odd to me.

Blogger myron said...
Speed is the first thing to go. When you are tall and your speed leaves you, you're still tall. If you're small and fast, well...

Over 30 league you say?

Blogger Vladamir said...
the ethnicity of the players described in Drake's post is irrelevant. Bad descriptive adjective Drake, live and learn. I've made the same mistake before and have been called on it. Upon reflection I realize it illuminates my own stereotypes that really aren't based in reality.

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